The cast of the animated Star Trek series, 'Lower Decks.' Tendi (Noël Wells), Rutherford (Eugene Cordero), Boimler (Jack Quaid), and Mariner (Tawny Newsome) stand in a row looking sheepishly at each other.

The Comedy and Charm of ‘Star Trek: Lower Decks’ Isn’t Easy to Master

Barry Kelly is the supervising director for Star Trek: Lower Decks and he is someone who understands why we love the series so much. A show about the ensigns working in the lower decks on the starship USS Cerritos, Lower Decks is an animated look at the Star Trek world that pokes fun at the franchise while celebrating why we love it.

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Talking with Kelly, it is clear he is ready to praise everyone he works with who helps to make Lower Decks the show what it is. When I asked about creating the show and taking the crew into a new place in season 4, primarily into a new place entirely on the ship, he had nothing but praise for showrunner Mike McMahan.

“Mike McMahan, our showrunner/creator, he wanted to see them leave the lower decks and leave the bunks. It’s got a little bit of a somber moment. We’re not gonna see them there for the foreseeable future. They might be getting new quarters. But it’s a beautiful moment because it’s probably one of the few things where like the lights kind of turn off. For us, they left the bunks and now they’re off. They’re getting more responsibility. It’s fun to see them kind of get imposter syndrome. We’ve definitely seen Boimler have imposter syndrome before because he is gotten promoted before. But now him and Mariner all of them, they’re competent in their jobs, but maybe not competent in their roles now.”

He went on to talk about them having that responsibility and what they’re feeling with that weight on their shoulders. “We have to see how they react to having a little bit more responsibility and see also the perks going up there, getting quarters. It’s fun to have. We haven’t seen Mariner and Tendi’s quarters. They’re living separately. We won’t see that. But now that they’re out of lower decks, they’ve grown up a little bit. It’s good to see them leave the nest. You can see the difficulties of potentially maybe the lower decks weren’t so bad with judging by the type of quarters that Boimler’s going through and the conundrums he’s having, there’s definitely a Seinfeld, Kenny Rogers Roasters kind of gag that’s going on with him in his first room there.”

Seeing the crew in live-action

Tawny Newsome as Beckett Mariner and Jack Quaid as Bradward Boimler in a live-action scene from 'Strange New Worlds.' Beckett is a Black woman with long, curly hair tied back in a ponytail with curly bangs and wearing a red Starfleet uniform in the style of 'Lower Decks.' Brad is a white man with dyed purple hair also wearing a similar uniform. They are standing in a transporter room.
(Paramount+)

While it is established quickly that our team isn’t supposed to talk about the Pike thing, it still has to be interesting for those creating Lower Decks to see what happened when actors like Tawny Newsome and Jack Quaid headed into the live-action on Strange New Worlds as their Lower Decks characters. So I asked about seeing these characters in live-action and how it felt as an animation guy to see that switch.

“It’s awesome,” Kelly said. “We got to see some dailies and we got to see some of the stuff they shot, and it wasn’t color correct or any of that. So we didn’t know how purple is this hair gonna look. I kept wondering how that’s gonna go, it’s always a weird predicament to find yourself in. Like, what do you translate? How do we handle Mariner’s ponytail? How do we handle Boimler’s the right shade of purple? But they did it wonderfully. And Jack Quaid, an interview I saw with him, he was saying he was looking at our animation to try to get some mannerisms down. So it felt cool to kind of inspire each other.”

The heart of Lower Decks

“Mike McMahan, he’s got the right tone,” he said. “The stakes are very important. He just wants the stakes to feel real to them, even if it’s not meaning like, oh no, the world’s gonna explode.” Kelly went on to talk about how McMahan uses personal stakes to make these characters more important to us and how their friendships are so much stronger because we care about their relationships than anything else. And that’s what makes this show so special, that these characters can mess up, they can make mistakes, but they are there for each other when it matters.

Star Trek: Lower Decks is airing on Paramount+ now and is a brilliant showcase of why we love Star Trek as a whole and Barry Kelly and company really understand why we love this franchise.

(featured image: Paramount+)


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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.